America - Front
America - Back
09th Apr 2019 | 149 views
In terms of software, age is a very relative thing, at least when it comes to feeling a product’s age. Some of the most advance video games of their time have been left in the dust, sometimes this happening in a very short time span. Sometimes, some games are able to withstand the test of time, feeling like they came out yesterday. And then there is that strange in-between, feeling both a time-capsule of its time and a very modern product at the same time. Of course, the clash of this two is going to be even bigger when the parts of the game are heavily compartmentalized. This is the case of Command & Conquer: Renegade.
First, a warning. This is quite an old game, it’s close to reaching 20 years old, and like many games of its time, it has serious problems working on modern computers. Out of the box, it won’t work. Once found the latest patch, it still won’t work. Fidgeting with the compatibility settings won’t work. The EA Origin forums have some threads discussing its problems, but no official solution. If it wasn’t for the help of the CnCNet Community Forums, who directed me to the fan-made patch “Tiberian Technologies” I wouldn’t have managed to make this work, so thanks to both of you. While trying to make a game this old from the original disks is obviously not going to be easy, the complaints on the EA Origin forums pretty much confirm that the digital version sold with the C&C pack doesn’t really work either, which is unacceptable. If you are selling a product like this, at the very least make sure that it works on people’s systems, no matter how old or obscure the title is. Second, this is part of the C&C series, and as such, it’s drenched in its continuity and mythos. And sadly, I haven’t played them. A sad admission on my part, as a lover of RTS games I’ve sadly had little chance to try this series, and because of this, I cannot really comment on how well this game fits on the overall series.
Developed by Westwood Studios in 2002, Command & Conquer: Renegade is a bit of an anomaly, and in others it characterizes all of the trends and clichés typical of early 2000s. It’s a first person shooter set on the Command & Conquer universe, the famous series of RTS that, alongside Starcraft and Age of Empires, is one of the cornerstones of its genre. Renegade is a FPS. C&C games are RTS. And with a developer specialized in RTS and Point &.Click Adventures You can see where the problems begin to appear. For some reason, instead of going to another studio with some experience with shooters to develop this spin-off, someone decided to take on the project themselves. Which is not a bad thing in theory, but there are flagrant elements that feel very rough, and probably come from the fact the team was not very experienced with the genre.
The game has two parts: a single player campaign, and a multiplayer. It also has a general tutorial mode and a practice room for the multiplayer, though they are not noteworthy: The tutorial is fun but basic, and the practice room for the multiplayer is basically a bot match with braindead AI and some pop-ups telling you what does what. The single player puts you on the shoes of Nick Seymour Parker, codename Havoc, a commando serving on the GDI in the context of the First Tiberium War against the terrorist/cult known as Nod for the control of tiberium, some sort of very valuable radioactive mineral that’s growing everywhere. You go from mission to mission uncovering Nod’s evil plan. And that’s pretty much it. Because you don’t need to know more (although if you haven’t played any of the previous games, knowing more wouldn’t hurt). The writing and the presentation is both incredibly over the top and cliché. So cliché, in fact, that it feels like some child watched dozens upon dozens of action B movies and was asked to write a characters that sounded “cool”. Havoc is your typical badass, wise-cracking commando that always survives the hardest missions, has problems with authority figures, prefers to work alone, jumps into action at the sight of innocents getting hurt, tells jokes to the enemy’s face and will mow down entire armies singlehandedly no matter the situation. It’s that kind of character. And that’s just the protagonist, we also have a commander that has to deal with Havoc’s shenanigans and doesn’t like his “loose cannon” antics, a German scientist that speaks in technobabble, an EVIL Russian scientist that turns out to be working for the villains, an evil mercenary straight from the South American guerrillas, a Japanese femme-fatale from a yakuza background working as a paid agent by Nod and has had a past relationship with the protagonist, an evil nazi-esque commandant that at the end becomes roided up with tiberium, the protagonist’s old squad of comrades with whom he shares a lot of story but that’s in the past… The whole pack. I swear, some of the have such amount of action tropes that it has to be intentional. The voice acting is as silly as the script, so that must be it, at least I hope that was it. This lighthearted tome continues throughout all twelve missions of the campaign, and is by far the most enjoyable thing of the single player. Because it’s here where the game starts slipping. The gameplay is somewhat run of the mill for the time. You have a lot of weapons to choose from, and can carry all of them at once. You have both health points and armor, armor significantly reducing the damage taken, without it you’re a sitting duck. The shooting is fine, although no matter the situation a headshot will make so much damage to enemies that there is no point in aiming somewhere else. The enemies were confusing at first. At first glance the AI is quite inept, taking a couple of seconds after seeing you to react, charge with flame and radiation throwers when you’re clearly attacking them with something with longer range, not reacting at all when someone close dies from sniper fire, and even getting stuck on the walls multiple times. So I was wondering how come it seemed like some of them were able to outflank me and ambush me, killing me quite frequently in some levels. After a while I realized it was not a problem with AI, but a problem with unit emplacement. I guess that, to compensate for the awful AI they sometimes add enemies in places difficult to see at first glance (sometimes completely invisible until you reach certain spot), and armed with the missile launcher and the sniper rifle, they can cause a lot of game overs if one’s health and armor is not full. Particularly irritating are the spots where you have many combined enemies, both snipers, missile launchers and flamethrowers/rad-throwers at the same time, making you soak a lot of damage. Considering this game is not designed to be stealthy (the levels are mostly long corridors where you shoot whoever attacks you) it can become annoying. Better quick save, because one death sends you all the way back to the beginning of the mission. The levels are also a mixed bag, some are creative while other recycle so much content it’s not even fun to backtrack. Vehicles are an interesting option, always worth getting them, but the level design is just not designed for them. You get the tank, fight a mini-section, and you have to abandon it because where you’re going the tank doesn’t fit. A shame, they are fun to play. There are boss fights, though both of them are quite annoying. The first one because the guy is basically immune to your guns (until you realize your heavy laser utterly destroys him in four-five hits) and the “final” boss starts you surrounded by enemies that immediately shoot at you, almost like a firing squad. They are not difficult because they are challenging, they are difficult because they are annoying. The real finale of the game is, sadly, an escort mission running away from the ruins of the enemy base, and it’s just as fun as it sounds. Still, for all of its problems, I enjoyed the campaign. It’s mindless fun, but still fun.
The multiplayer is really interesting. As the servers for the multiplayer used GameSpy, they are no longer playable, so I’ve had to play with bots. There is a fan-made version of this, Renegade X, though I’m not sure how it stacks up against the original. The concept is simple, each side has a base with a series of buildings, and each player has to destroy the other before time runs out using soldiers, vehicles and other stuff. You get points when you kill enemies, destroy buildings and vehicles and harvest tiberium. While it looks simple, it’s more deep than it sounds, having to juggle shooting, team-planning, resource-gathering and base defense. It’s the best part of the game, and it’s sad the servers are long dead, this could’ve played very well at its peak. It definitively would have done well nowadays, this kind of approach to shooters is sadly forgotten this days.
It feels like there was certain rush to make a fps out of the C&C series, both to try to capitalize on the series’ name and on the fps craze of late 90s and early 200s, with games such as Half-Life (1998), Deus Ex (2000), Counter Strike (2000), Halo: Combat Evolved (2002) and so on, both on the single player to the multiplayer. And while it had decent reviews, there was never a sequel for this, so I guess the interest just wasn’t there. The game stands nowadays as one strange experiment of the times, and a possible way the shooter genre could’ve evolved if the interest was there. Alas, it was not meant to be.